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Man found guilty in fatal ambush of Missouri state trooper

Friday, March 27, 2009 | 6:15 p.m. CDT

WEST PLAINS — A Van Buren man could face the death penalty after being found guilty Friday of first-degree murder in the death of a Missouri state trooper.

The jury deliberated three hours before returning the verdict, finding that Lance Shockley, 32, killed patrol Sgt. Carl Dewayne Graham Jr. outside of Graham's Van Buren home on March 20, 2005.

The penalty phase of the trial began Friday afternoon. A court official said it wasn't certain when a penalty would be determined.

The case was moved to West Plains from Carter County on a change of venue.

Capt. Billy Chadwick, who heads Troop G in Willow Springs, said the Highway Patrol was pleased with the verdict and "glad to see justice done."

"While it will not bring Dewayne back, we trust that today's verdict will bring some closure for all who knew and loved him," he said in a statement.

Graham, 37, had just returned home from his shift when he was shot.

"A coward shot him in the back," then with a shotgun pumped two shots into his head, Kevin Zoellner, the assistant attorney general who prosecuted the case, said in his opening statement.

A bullet severed Graham's spine. He suffered a skull fracture when he fell backward from the impact.

But in her opening statement, defense attorney Molly Henshaw said the state had it "all wrong," from the alleged motive to the actual killing. She said there was no eyewitness, no weapon, no DNA, no ballistic or physical evidence tying Shockley to the crime.

"They focused on the wrong man," she said.

Zoellner said Graham was killed because he was investigating a fatal hit-and-run accident and was focusing on Shockley as the fleeing driver. That accident on Nov. 26, 2004, killed Jeffrey R. Bayless.

During testimony on Thursday, Shockley's grandmother, Mae Shockley, said her grandson borrowed her red 1995 Pontiac Grand Am around noon on March 20, 2005, and returned home between 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Van Buren residents Rick Hamm and Lisa Hart testified to seeing a red car parked near Graham's house that afternoon.

Another attorney for Shockley, Bradford Kessler, said Graham finished his shift at 4:03 p.m., and noted that the homes of Graham and Mae Shockley are more than 14 miles apart.

"If he was at (his grandmother's) trailer between 4 and 4:30, he can't be someplace else," Kessler said.

"Yes, he can," patrol Sgt. Scott Stoetling said, noting that Mae Shockley wasn't certain on the time.

Prosecutors called 35 witnesses, while the defense called just one, Roger Hart, a neighbor of Graham's. He testified to seeing a red car and to a written statement saying the license plates could have included an "L'' or "M." Mae Shockley's plates had neither letter. But under cross-examination, Hart said that after seeing the car at a Missouri Department of Transportation shed, he determined he had been wrong about the license number.

Sgt. Jeff Heath testified that in the first interview hours after the killing, Shockley said "he didn't kill Sgt. Graham," even though he hadn't been asked about the trooper.

 


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